Bahai News - Service Will Focus On A Call For Peace

Service Will Focus On A Call For Peace ; More Than 20 Area Leaders Representing Varied Faiths Will Read From Scriptures


Leaders of more than 20 faiths and denominations in the St. Louis region will gather tonight to reflect on the call to peace found in their respective scriptures.

Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Taoist, Sikh and Ba'hai leaders will enter the sanctuary of the St. Louis Cathedral Basilica and individually read from their scripture about peace.

"We too often spend too much time arguing or fighting, and it's wonderful to come together for a common cause," said Rabbi Janine Schloss, president of St. Louis Rabbinical Association and one of the participants. "It's especially necessary after Sept. 11."

Archbishop Justin Rigali, past chairman of the Cabinet of the Interfaith Partnership of Metropolitan St. Louis, organized the gathering as a link to an interfaith gathering for peace at Assisi, Italy, on Thursday.

Leaders from nearly all of the world's major faiths have accepted Pope John Paul II's invitation to join him at the birthplace of St. Francis of Assisi to fast, have silent prayer and discuss peace.

The St. Louis gathering will be an opportunity to pray for an end to using religion as a vehicle for violence, said the Rev. Vincent A. Heier, ecumenical officer for the St. Louis Archdiocese. The event, which begins at 7:30 p.m. at the basilica, 4425 Lindell Boulevard, is open to the public.

The gathering is not a joint worship service, Heier said.

As each speaker reads scripture and offers prayers in his or her tradition, members of other faiths will observe in silence.

"Christians can't pray together with Buddhists, Hindus, Taos and others who are not part of the Abrahamic tradition," he said. "Sometimes, it is very difficult for Christians, Muslims and Jews to pray together. That's because Christians pray in the name of Jesus, and Muslims recognize God as Allah, even though (followers of Abraham) presume we pray to the same God."

While some interfaith events in this region include Catholics, mainline Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Ba'hais and Hindus, this one is unusual in drawing Orthodox Christians, Buddhists, Taoists and Sikhs.

Perhaps these faith communities will make "new connections" and become participants in the Interfaith Partnership, said the Rev. Sam Roth, who will represent the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's Central States Synod leader, Bishop Gerald Manshoult.

The gathering will remind all participants that there is another dimension to life beyond the material one, he said.

Heier referred to John Paul's statement at his first interfaith peace gathering in Assisi in 1986: "To pray is itself an invitation today to the world to become aware that there exists another dimension of peace, and another way of promoting it, which is not the result of negotiations, political compromises or economic bargaining. It is the result of prayer, which, in the diversity of religions, express a relationship with a supreme power that surpasses our human capacities alone."

Swami Chetanananda, leader of the Hindu-based Vedanta Society of St. Louis, plans to chant in Sanskrit and English.

"This type of gathering should help bring us back to peace, equanimity and unity," he said. "Peace and bliss are things you cannot buy at Schnucks."

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